Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Preview: An Ambitious Story With Bigger Combat

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 presents a brand new world full of mammoth mechs, gorgeous landscapes, and conflicted heroes, while offering tweaked versions of game mechanics familiar to veteran players of the franchise. Coming out later this month, the new Xenoblade Chronicles installment continues to build off of its predecessors, balancing a deep and twisting story with a variety of game mechanics and systems, most of which have appeared in previous games. ComicBook.com had the opportunity to preview the first two chapters of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 ahead of its release with the chance to test out most of the game's major features. 

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is set in the world of Aionios, a world dominated by two warring countries – Keves and Agnus. The two countries fight using specially engineered soldiers with ten-year lifespans. Each cluster of soldiers form a colony centered around a large moving mech with a Flame Clock which collects the lifeforce of fallen enemies and uses it as fuel. If the Flame Clock runs out, the colony dies, which forces colonies from the two countries into a never-ending conflict with no resolution in sight. 

Initially, players meet a trio of Keves special forces soldiers led by Noah, a pensive swordsman with a kind heart. Noah and his comrades Eunie and Lanz quickly encounter a similar trio from Agnus during a mysterious combat mission, and all six are put on a common path when they are made "Ouroboros," which frees them from their respective Flame Clocks and allows them to Interlink with one another to temporarily become giant warriors. It's clear from the onset that something is not right in the world, especially when the players discover that there are normal humans living somewhere in the vast wilderness beyond their colonies. 

(Photo: Monolith Soft/Nintendo)

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 retains the auto-battling system of previous games. Characters in the player's party will automatically attack an enemy when combat is triggered, but players will manually choose when to use a character's Combat Arts which are special attacks with additional abilities. Each character has a unique class with a list of arts to choose from. While each class is somewhat unique, they're broadly defined as either Attackers, Support, or Healers. Attackers rely on positioning to deal damage, while Support benefits from drawing aggro away from their comrades. Healers not only provide healing in the middle of combat, but also beneficial buffs. Each character also has a Talent Art, an even more powerful Art that can only be activated after a player completes certain conditions unique to their class. 

While previous Xenoblade Chronicles games only allowed players to have three active party members, players can have up to seven active party members in combat at a time. Six of the characters are "core characters" that act as permanent members, while the seventh character is a "Hero" that temporarily joins the party over the course of the story. Players also have the ability to switch a core character's class which eventually unlocks different skills that can be used to further customize a character and enhance their traits. Each class comes with different stat boosts, although players will eventually learn that some characters are more suited for different roles than others. 

At first glance, the Talents, Skills, and Arts all seem confusing, especially when coupled with the Interlink system. However, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 does a fantastic job of teaching players as the story progresses, providing players with a steady drip of information throughout the first chapter or so. I also liked that the game immediately started in the middle of a conflict, providing players with a sense of urgency and danger. The new Class and Interlink systems also seem like a blast to explore and should help keep the open world combat from becoming too tedious and monotonous, which was a problem I had in past Xenoblade Chronicles games. My main question is how much of a difference customization will truly have on the game. At least early on in Xenoblade Chronicles 3, it's hard to tell if players will be able to mold the characters to fit their playstyle or if the customization is mostly minor. 

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 continues a tradition of deep storylines and frantic combat, with a new and engaging storyline that fans should really enjoy. The complex systems of the game are presented in a manner that's mostly intuitive and I think fans will have a lot of fun getting to know the bigger party of characters.

There will be tons more to dig into Xenoblade Chronicles 3 when the full game comes out on July 29th.